Transportation

Report | USPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

From Deceit to Transformation

Volkswagen (VW) perpetuated a fraud on the American people, deceiving consumers into believing that they were getting the best possible combination of performance and sustainability. But VW’s promises were nothing more than lies that significantly harmed our collective health and the health of our environment. As a result of the settlement that followed this fraud, an Environmental Mitigation Trust (EMT) was set up with $2.9 billion dollars to be distributed to states to reduce transportation emissions. In effect, VW’s deceit now represents a historic opportunity to drastically reduce harmful pollution that makes us sick and destroys the planet, while also providing an essential down payment toward the transition to a clean and modern 21st century transportation system. 

Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Electric Buses in America: Lessons from Cities Pioneering Clean Transportation

America’s bus network plays a crucial role in the lives of millions of people, providing transport for those who cannot or do not wish to drive, and carrying up to half of all American children to and from school every day. The majority of America’s buses, however, are still powered by polluting fossil fuels, such as diesel, that pose a serious risk to public health and contribute to global warming.

Battery-powered electric buses can reduce the environmental and health threats posed by diesel buses, while also providing a reliable and cost-effective option for cities and school districts. Advances in electric bus technology and a rapid decline in battery costs over recent years have made electric buses an increasingly viable option for many transit agencies and school districts.

However, electric buses are still an emerging technology. Transit agencies and school districts considering electric buses need to know what to expect — and, more importantly, how to get the greatest benefit from their investment.

The experiences of six early adopters of electric buses illustrate the challenges that agencies have faced, as well as the benefits many have received, from their electric bus pilots. To speed up the rollout of electric buses and ensure that cities see the benefits of these vehicles, state and city officials should commit to a transition to electric buses on a specific timeline and create favorable utility rate structures for transit agencies that include reduced off-peak energy rates and limited demand charges.

News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Texas has most ‘Highway Boondoggles’ of any state in the nation: report

Texas has been singled out as the state with the highest number of egregious highway boondoggle projects in a new report by TexPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. Despite boasting one of the most extensive highway systems of any state in the country and huge budget shortfalls caused by COVID-19, Texas is planning to spend nearly $3 billion to expand Loop 1604 in San Antonio and build the Southeast Connector in Fort Worth.
These two new boondoggle projects join a list of two other already active boondoggles for a total of eight in the last decade--three more than any other state.
“Texas really needs to get its act together,” said Bay Scoggin, director of the Texas Public Interest Research Group. “TxDoT is already billions of dollars in debt, with billions more on the way, and they still insist on throwing good money after bad, investing more in proven failures. These projects lead to more pollution, more gridlock and more budget shortfalls."

News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New report: COVID-19 pandemic worsens existing consumer problems with car buying

Consumer complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regarding vehicle loans and leases have increased sharply during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report by the TexPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. The analysis suggests that consumers in Texas and across the United States are facing abusive and deceptive practices from the automobile lending industry.  

“Personal car ownership was once a symbol of freedom in the United States. Now, for too many Americans, owning a vehicle isn’t a choice, but an expensive necessity,” said Bay Scoggin, Director of TexPIRG Education Fund. “That’s why making it easier to get around without a car, including by building more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly infrastructure and improving the cost and availability of public transit, is an important step to help Americans reduce their exposure to auto debt.”

From mask mandates to capacity limits, the largest public transit systems and ride share companies have new procedures

News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

"Welcome to the 21st century, Austin." CapMetro chooses light rail, downtown tunnel

AUSTIN--Today, CapMetro’s plan for a generational investment in public transit for the city came out. The plan, the details of the long-awaited Project Connect vision map, include light rail recommendations for the two key high capacity corridors, one for the Guadalupe/Lamar corridor and one out to the airport, as well as an underground tunnel through the downtown business district. 

"Welcome to the 21st century, Austin. It’s absurd that one of the largest cities in America still lacks high capacity public transit, and that’s why I’m so excited CapMetro is submitting this transformational proposal. Project Connect will help us get around, improve our quality of life, and mitigate the worst aspects of climate change,” said Bay Scoggin, director of the advocacy organization TexPIRG Education Fund. “The best time to build transit was 20 years ago, but the second best time is right now.”

News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

TexPIRG Statement on I35 Expansion Boondoggle

On Wednesday, the Texas Transportation Commission came out with a plan to fully fund the proposed expansion of Interstate 35 through downtown Austin. The following can be attributed to Bay Scoggin, TexPIRG Education Fund Director. 

“Time and again, we see Texas’ transportation priorities are headed in the wrong direction.For eight billion dollars, we could do far better than a project that won’t solve congestion, will increase our burden on the environment, and will exacerbate our reliance on cars.”

Media Hit | Transportation

Houston’s $7 billion solution to gridlock is more highways

Like many American cities, Houston is encircled by rings of highways—nine major radial freeways, three ring freeways, and a 180-mile fourth outer ring on the way.

But Houston isn’t just encircled by roads, it’s symbolically, and literally, being choked by cars. It’s consistently ranked as a top city for traffic congestion, ninth-worst for ozone pollution according to the American Lung Association, and a tragic nexus for deaths from car crashes. The annual death toll, according to the Houston Chronicle, is equivalent to “three fully-loaded 737s crashing each year at Houston’s airports, killing all aboard.”

According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the solution is more roads, specifically, a multiyear, multibillion dollar project to widen and expand the city’s highway infrastructure in an attempt to ease persistent bottlenecks that clog downtown traffic.

 

This isn’t a small upgrade: in the name of accelerating commutes, the North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP) will widen and rebuild nearly 25 miles of highways in the city’s downtown, expanding some to be as wide as the length of two football fields. In addition to years of construction, the “Texas-sized” expansion would displace four houses of worship, two schools, 168 homes, 1,067 multifamily units, and 331 businesses that account for just under 25,000 employees, impacting mostly people of color in low-income neighborhoods.

It would add more impermeable concrete and asphalt infrastructure, plus future maintenance costs, to a city that is still recovering from some of the worst floods in recent memory. Resilience is a serious concern post-Harvey, and as flood maps are updated as flood risks evolve, the addition of concrete to the landscape could make the next storm’s impact worse. Houstonians still recall how highways became channels of water that cut off neighborhoods from aid during the worst of the flooding.

To critics, the I-45 project, named after the main highway that will be impacted, is an urban renewal reboot, a modern version of the freeway expansion projects that wrecked neighborhoods and divided cities in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Why would more urban highways and lanes of traffic—especially at a time when many cities are actively removing or capping their highways—be a foregone conclusion in any effort to mitigate Houston’s serious congestion problem?

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